The technological revolution is changing every aspect of our lives, and the fabric of society itself. It’s also changing the way we learn and what we learn. Factual knowledge is less prized when everything you ever need to know can be found on your phone. There’s no imperative to be an expert at doing everything when you can watch a video on YouTube and then emulate it, as so many of us do.
But how do L&D keep up with technology in a large enterprise and keep pace with the way that people are absorbing and using information? How can this still feed into the strategic priorities of the organisation – which themselves are constantly changing? How can all of this change be implemented quickly and make an impact as well as be cost effective? These are the questions that organisations have been grappling with, and they’ll only become more pressing over the course of the next few years.
I don’t have the space in this blog to talk about how we at Saffron are helping clients with the answers to those questions! I do, however, have time to talk about one potential angle of attack, sparked by the book I’ve been reading, Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration by Karl M. Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll.
It’s official – Christmas is well and truly over. The tinsel and decorations have been put away for another year and the wrapping paper’s in the bin. No more lazing about in pyjamas all day watching festive films. No more reaching out for one last mince pie. It’s time to look to the future and think about what you’re going to achieve in 2018. So, this January, (like every January), I’m joining millions of people around the globe who are making new year’s resolutions and promises.
You may well be one of those millions too. And even though 80% of us will have broken our resolutions by February, it’s inevitable that we’ll repeat the process when January 2019 rolls around. Why do we put ourselves through this? Well, as humans, we’re on a never-ending journey of self-improvement, constantly striving to be better.
But where most fail, some succeed. How do they do it?
It seems that for anything we can improve at, there’s an app to track it and make it quantifiable.
Humour (if done well) can really make a learning course stand out. It creates a more relaxed environment in which learners feel more open to trying things out. No one minds getting things wrong – a great way to learn – if they’re having a laugh. Humour in learning (if done well) also reverses the tone of top-down authority which learning courses so often adopt, and it fosters an emotional connection between learner and learning.
Those warm fuzzy feelings have a tangible benefit. Humour (if done well) is one of the most effective ways of engaging learners. Neuroscience shows that when we laugh, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter which activates reward-motivated behaviour and participation. So it not only biologically invests learners, but also increases retention. With all that in mind, why wouldn’t you turn your learning into Seinfeld on steroids?
Winter is here. The long dark wait for the next season of Game of Thrones has begun. This break from the action allows me time to ponder a question that I’ve been asking myself for a while now. What exactly makes it one of the most popular TV shows in the world?
The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale set another ratings high with 16.5 million viewers of the live airing alone, and this insane popularity shows no sign of abating. George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series, ably brought to life by HBO, has been compelling enough to capture the hearts and minds of people around the world. In the digital age, it may just be the most streamed and downloaded TV series of them all. Not bad for a fantasy epic set in a magical medieval kingdom.
But what have dragons and drama got to do with elearning? How might we take the elements that make it such a phenomenon and use them to make learning that’s just as popularly consumed? After all, using pop culture in learning can have tangible benefits.
I was lucky enough to have really cool teachers at school – you know, the type who taught game theory using the bar scene from A Beautiful Mind, or aspects of US government systems using episodes of The West Wing, or Freud’s idea of the Return of the Repressed using the opening episode of the 2nd series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Making a connection between whatever you were learning about and the big TV shows of the day, a classic film, or a national sport would instantly attract the full attention of us pupils and automatically attribute a degree of Awesome to the teacher. Suddenly something we already cared about was relevant to the lesson; so of course we were going to be more engaged, pay more attention and be more likely to recall that lesson. They were using pop culture in learning.
Now that the final version of iOS 11 is available to download complete with ARKit capabilities, the app store is overflowing with AR apps to explore. Apps such as Ikea Place have been spearheading the flood of AR puzzles, games and tools making their way onto consumer phones across the globe in the last few months.
As much as I’m excited by the prospect of adding random AR GIFs to my surroundings, the sparkle of some of the more frivolous apps will begin to wear off very quickly. Once AR fever dies down, we’ll be left asking an important question: what value does AR add to an experience?
Things move fast in the artificial intelligence sphere. With Elon Musk and other AI influencers calling for a ban on automated deathbots, and an AI bot created by his own start up, OpenAI, now able to beat humans at complex games, a distant future of sentient robots doesn’t actually seem that distant at all. But how could these developments be harnessed to improve organisational or individual performance? Let’s take a look at some of the potential uses of AI in learning to find out.
We’ve previously covered some of AI’s potential applications in the learning sphere, and its limitations, considering whether AI could ever replace the blood, sweat, and tears of a human instructional designer. With the pace of change increasing rapidly, however, there are some steps which AI may well be taking into the learning environment very soon.
Modern slavery is still a huge ongoing global issue, with 20 to 30 million people still estimated to be enslaved in 161 countries worldwide, and 20 new suspected victims found in the UK just this morning.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires all businesses with a turnover of over £36 million to publish a statement setting out the steps they have taken, during each financial year, to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place anywhere in their supply chains and in any part of their own business.
It’s a small step towards greater regulatory control and awareness of modern slavery. However, the current issue with modern slavery reporting is twofold. Firstly, added documentation is often used as a salve for insufficient understanding resulting in additional paperwork being created, but little impact on-the-ground. Secondly, accountability tends to be pushed down the supply chain, with confirmation of good practice being asked of the next in the chain until we reach those with no interest in acting honestly, or who simply don’t care.
Learning could address both these issues of understanding and passing the blame, but it isn’t being used to do so. Here’s how it can, and why it should.
Can you think back to the most powerful learning experience you’ve ever had? Was there a class that you always looked forward to?
Mine was a class at university, not exceptional in its content but transformative because of the teaching methods used by the professor. He skillfully used the flipped classroom methodology to reach the promised land of education: it made me realise the unknown unknowns, the blind spots I never knew I had.
These experiences initiate deep learning moments, a rush of hormones that have us wanting to come back for more. In education, they have us diligently preparing for classes and continuing animated conversations long after they’re over. At work, quality learning re-ignites our excitement for what we do, energising and empowering us to create, think and do. In other words, it engages us.
‘All hail the kale’ was a big craze on the health food scene a year or so ago. Incidentally, that was the first thing that I thought of when I saw all the VR and AR banners at the Learning Technologies 2017 show a few weeks back.
Virtual Reality seems to have finally arrived and as learning designers we’re tempted to buy into its promise of effortless learner engagement and, let’s be honest, an opportunity to play around with the gadgets ourselves!
As a teenager I applied for a job as a cashier at a major high-street pharmacy. The first round of assessment, with compliance in mind, was an online quiz on good practices and ethics. We had thirty statements and had to give a true or false answer to each. One of the statements was:
True or false: “It is always wrong to steal.”
Quite a stupid question to offer a generation that grew up on Aladdin!
And so, within minutes of interacting with an employer I was being trained to lie to them. Rather ironic for a test designed to ensure quality of character. In comparison, I applied for a similar position at a popular British department store. They had an excellent test that put you on the shop floor with day-in-the-life challenges. I tried to follow the same line and rightly failed. Their ethics test was good, it filtered for dishonesty and heartlessness.
And yet, even as good Instructional Designers, we all too easily fall into the trap of writing compliance interactions like this:
Saffron Interactive to deliver key seminar on gamification and behavioural science at Learning Technologies exhibition
UPDATE: Slides and video of the seminar are now available, register to receive them here.
Saffron Interactive (stand E15), will be hosting a seminar on both days of the Learning Technologies exhibition on 1 – 2 February. Attendees will gain invaluable insights into the implications of gamification and behavioural science for learning and performance technologies, most notably through employee engagement.
The movie Avatar is on TV again, but in 2009, when it was released, did you subject yourself to the 2 hours and 42 minutes because you thought you were one of the few who hadn’t seen it? And do you try to avoid the ‘free taster’ stands in supermarkets because you can’t trust yourself not to buy something from them afterwards? And don’t even get me started on the stampedes caused by a rare Pokémon appearing in Hyde Park…
I have a friend called Ed. He is smart, alert and doesn’t try too hard to be funny. Separate to this, he is a Reinsurance Analyst. No-one knows what a Reinsurance Analyst is, few care to find out. This creates a quandary because he likes his job, it’s interesting and he wants to talk about it. But it’s hard, because there are few ways to sell Reinsurance analysis without trying too hard to be funny. Few listen.
To anyone who doubts the great pace of human accomplishment, I give you this anecdote: I had to spend a bank holiday reading the works of a 16th century French philosopher to impress a Welsh girl.
Thesis v1: Bespoke elearning will never be produced by robots. Artificial intelligence is simply not going to replace the blood, sweat and tears of instructional designers, graphic designers, developers and project managers.
And when it does, we will find other things for them to do.
Let me explain. An algorithm can put text and pictures together and format them. An algorithm can assemble meaningful questions from raw content. In other words, an algorithm can probably do what a bad instructional designer or a bad elearning developer can do.
But the algorithm cannot choose the best picture. The algorithm cannot devise the right question. It cannot do what a good instructional designer can do. And as soon as it can, the good instructional designer will go one better.
I’m being deliberately contradictory. And this blog post is not the place to solve the conundrum of what endows a digital object with value. But I suspect it’s human effort, not software.
‘This time, Nigel,’ Vivienne insisted, ‘we want some different and special and not the same old, same old that we can get from any other elearning provider.’ Michael, a senior manager at the same management consultancy was equally demanding: ‘When it comes to the test, for heaven’s sake don’t call it a “quiz” (which sounds as though it’s something trivial, we need to test their ability to apply what they’ve learnt and not simply to repeat phrases from Schwab’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution.) We need consultants in the field who can do so much more than simply talk the talk – that’s the added value that our clients are paying for.’
Blended learning is something that we at Saffron have talked about for over a decade. In The Blended Learning Cookbook first published in 2005 by Saffron, our founder Hanif Sazen, talked about the promise of a ‘blended pill’ that would solve all the challenges faced by organisations trying to do something better, or differently.
How best to respond to “We’d like just nuggets, please”?
Am I right to feel a little uneasy when a customer or potential customer (I can’t bring myself to use the ugly term ‘prospect’) says that all they want is ‘just nuggets’?
In the back of my mind there’s a kindly relative asking “Just nuggets, Dear? Really? That doesn’t sound like a nourishing meal to me! “
“Are you sure you’re eating properly?”
The Instructional Designer role has never been considered particularly cool. But, just like mainstream indie or double roundabouts, the only reason it hasn’t been replaced is that no one’s agreed on a suitable alternative. Come to think of it, it’s pretty hard to pin down exactly what an ID is meant to be doing. Wikipedia quotes Utah State’s University to say that Instructional Designers create “instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.” That’s a start, but this kind of definition feels problematic. For example, what’s an ‘instructional experience’? Presumably it’s one that instructs the learner in their topic of choice, but how can this be effective and appealing without the presence of an instructor to breathe life into the words? And why does the definition put such emphasis on efficient acquisition? Surely learners must be able to acquire knowledge at their own pace in order to retain new skills and information in the long term.
To be effective, elearning has to be on a par with the best face-to-face training in its engagement, memorability, and potential for behaviour change. It has to put the learner’s needs at its heart while living up to their employer’s expectations. It has to prove its own worth through creating measurable change. The world is awash with compelling digital media and new generations of professionals have a world of choice at their fingertips. How, then, is elearning going to make an impact? Well, we could lose the Instructional Design title for a start. And let’s face it, the market’s already flooded with alternatives. People are being as creative with their job title as they are in their design. Here are just a few options to pick from. Do any of them apply to what you do?
As an avid gamer with more than my fair share of first-hand gaming experience, my toes curl at the half-hearted attempts at gamification that creep into elearning like a serial photobomber.
In an age of simplified, some might say distilled, mobile gaming where simple interactions lead to addictive gameplay (i.e. ‘flappy bird’, ‘angry birds’, anything to do with birds) – businesses and instructional designers have desperately grasped for a mechanic that can transform their learning from mind-numbing compliance into addictive learning gameplay.
For me, however, they seem to be grasping at the wrong mechanics. Scoring and rankings are great, but they require difficulty to become interesting (if Flappy Bird was easy, it would never have caught on). That difficulty is the mechanic through which a user, or a learner, becomes interested in bettering themselves and beating the game. The difficulty in flappy birds is derived from the precision it requires to guide the least aero-dynamically shaped bird in existence through an increasingly complex series of jutting pipes.
Lists. Often when talking to clients about designing a dashboard for an LMS, we have to gently remind them that ‘at the end of the day, guys, it’s just a list’. A list of courses, a list of action points, a list of statuses or a list of things to do. That’s not a bad thing, as lists are also deeply satisfying things – they are how we throw a hoop around our complex lives so we can sit back and say: ‘that’s under control.’ And as BuzzFeed’s success demonstrates, absolutely any content is immediately more appealing if it’s in a numbered list.
Creating a sequel is easier said than done. We’ve seen some software, games and movies losing the plot completely. But, with Storyline 2, Articulate have excelled themselves. Storyline 2 includes new and enhanced features, giving us multiple ways to bring our content to life with more control over how it looks and behaves. The new and enhanced features are exciting but I should warn you: as much as I love it, it runs a little sluggishly.
With a new office and new website, the past few months have been a busy time for Saffron! To top it all off, we’ve also introduced new brand guidelines. Two of our team members, Sonja Gebetshammer and Carina Weingast, have been charged with updating Saffron’s branding, and they’re here to share their insider knowledge about how they’ve transformed the Saffron brand.
When it comes to iconic figures in pedagogy, you can’t deny that Mary Poppins’ learning approaches were well ahead of the curve. Whilst watching Saving Mr Banks last weekend (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it), I realised that there’s plenty we can learn from Mary P’s approach. She knew about everything: from gamified learning, to the endowment principle. This blog post will take a look at a few occasions on which Mary P showed us how a successful learning intervention can be done:
When I started as a new Instructional Designer at Saffron, I had to get my head around an abundance of new ‘systems’ in a short space of time. Of course, I didn’t think of them all as systems at the time, but when I stopped to think about what the word meant, I realised that countless new ones must be learnt and familiarised with whenever you enter a new environment. From working out how to get to work on time every day (still a struggle!), to mastering the various software applications that Saffron use; my cognitive faculties were busy getting to grips with systems all day.
Is 2014 the year gamification can be taken of the ‘to do’ list and put into practice? While it has been a buzzword in the elearning industry for years now, it seems like this year the time has come for gamification to start delivering real benefits for online learning.
Once upon a time, I thought that my interest in communication was only in words, grammar, and syntax. Thrilling though those subjects are, I’ve discovered that communication runs deeper than characters on a page, or even spoken language. It is something that we experience with every one of our senses.
Watching a toddler negotiate obstacles is fascinating, especially the ‘toy under the table’ scenario. Running full pelt, all the focus is on their favourite toy, not the height of the table … BANG! Need I say more? 10 days later, the same scenario is playing out, but this time upon reaching the table, the toddler ducks.
Having been raised in a household of oral storytelling, stories have been in my life blood since the day I could understand language and narrative. Being able to explore human behaviour and cultural differences through stories has always fascinated me. So when I listened to a webinar involving Pat Kenny, a national e-learning manager from the Health Service Executive, that discussed using storytelling in e-learning it, it made me think.
Like most of Londoners, I rely on tube transportation to travel around the city. When on the tube, I usually spend my commuting time playing video games on my smartphone. When I look around I realise that many others, like me, are immersed in trying to solve puzzles, escape from zombies, shoot pigs, and so on.
Have you ever wondered why the US produces so many radical innovators like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Google duo Larry Page and Sergey Brin and why Germany produces expert business builders like the Samwer brothers? Or why people in the UK and the US tend to go to university or college to study general subjects like English, Economics, Engineering or the coveted MBA whereas people in Germany tend to study industry specific subjects like Technology, Education and Nursing at Germany’s professional universities? Have you considered how employment law might influence your employees’ incentives to develop skills that are relevant to your business? And what effect might this have on the type of products and services that these countries deliver as well as their capacity to innovate?
This year, the Learning at Work Day theme is ‘Learning for Growth’. The constant availability of mobile learning already makes it ideal for self-development, but are you making the most of this medium?
When we take a look at compliance training, we often try to “justify” the learning to the reluctant user by listing the all of the empirical stuff that provides the context for the business case. “Data protection is important for us at Compuglobal Hypermeganet because in <insert recent year> there were <insert massive figure> breaches of data for our industry resulting in <insert inordinately large amount of money> in fines.” And yeah, it serves a purpose, to a point. Examples like this are an attempt at what we like to describe as a “war story” – using the worst case scenario to illustrate what a breach in compliance means.
Looking back on last year, it seems that 2011 saw the English usage debate heat up, with plain English advocators angling their bayonets against the mountain of corporate jargon that permeates the modern workplace. And as an e-learning supplier, this is a matter close to Saffron’s heart.
The Spirit of Christmas Plagiarism
I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little blog, to raise the Ghost of an Idea …*
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, 2012 is the year of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. Part of his enduring celebrity is due to modern readers being able to relate to themes discussed almost two centuries ago. Tiny Tim going hungry at Christmas still tugs on the heartstrings, while Pip’s love/hate relationship with Estella wouldn’t seem out of place on Eastenders. One of the most recognisable parts of A Christmas Carol is Scrooge’s unwilling journey of self discovery by looking at his past, present and future – I think we can all gain some insight by taking a step back and examining where we’re going and where we came from.
So, with my nightcap firmly in place (and no sign of the Muppets), let me persuade you to take a well-earned break from your mince pies and I’ll take you on a journey through the spectres of e-learning past, present and future…
It’s the office Christmas party and everyone’s taking their seats at the table. Who would you rather sit next to, the rather dull colleague in the lovely dress or the one with the great stories who you really get on with? An e-learning course’s ‘look’ is important… but its ‘personality’ is paramount.
Does a good-looking course qualify as good quality? What about an ordinary course that brings about great behavioural change? I’m sure the argument can be extended to both sides. But my argument is to take the middle-path (very Buddha-like indeed, except I see no chance of Nirvana!).
Instructional design day one!
So today is my first day at Saffron as an Instructional Designer. Having worked part-time as a supply teacher whilst studying, and coming to the end of an MA in Creative Writing, I wanted to try my hand at working in a business environment, whilst not leaving behind the things I enjoy; landing a position as an ID at Saffron has struck the perfect balance. Here I have the opportunity to continue doing the things I love, whilst gaining experience both in business, and e-learning.
That’s English composer Cornelius Cardew’s title, not mine. It’s also the title of a Confucian text, as translated by Ezra Pound, the first chapter of which Cardew uses within his composition of the same name. It begins as follows:
What The Great Learning teaches is – to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence.
Inspiration can come from the strangest places. Personally, I think that Jeff Wayne’s musical masterpiece War of the Worlds is a perfect model for effective e-learning. Bear with me on this one…
By the end of this blog you will:
- Know what a learning objective is and why you need to write them.
- Understand why it’s so important to write learning objectives.
- Be able to write good learning objectives.
e-Learning, and the discussions around it, tends to polarise people. Nobody really sits on the fence – broadly speaking, they are for it (normally, those with a keen sense of the cost of training) or they are against it (those who believe in traditional pedagogy).
I have often seen courses where the learner has to read information in a popup on clicking a button. This click appears with its associated learner instruction and at times is just ornamentation on the screen. If this happens too frequently in a course, the learner starts responding in almost ‘Pavlov-esque’ fashion: a conditioned reflex (okay, so it was the dog and not Pavlov that responded, but you see my point!). The course is no longer entertaining and certainly not engaging. However by definition you could say it is interactive!